Monday, December 23, 2013

Traditions {a recollection}

My favorite holiday memories are deeply rooted in our family traditions. I remember walking into my grandparents’ house in Jonesboro for Christmas and feeling like I had stepped into what I imagined the North Pole must be like. Garlands of gingerbread men hung along the doorframes, each individually wrapped in cellophane and ribbon so that opening one felt like a present in itself. Those tasty, carefully and lovingly created gifts of gingerbread goodness were one of the highlights of my childhood. I looked forward to them each year and they are part of many wonderful memories.

Christmas at the beach in North Carolina!

As our family moved from state to state, sometimes far from our extended families, we tried on traditions. When I was 8, we traveled to North Carolina from our home state of Texas to be with my father who had moved ahead of us for a new post. Intent on making it a memorable Christmas, my parents created a scavenger hunt that sent us joyfully around the apartment following clues that led us to our gifts. We followed that up with a trip to the beach! Other years included counting down with purpose using the advent calendar and an unforgettable Christmas pageant featuring live animals.

One tradition that stuck, although it presented itself in many forms over the years, was a tradition of serving others as a family during this time of year. Whether we went caroling at the hospital, visited the elderly at the nursing home, or served Thanksgiving dinner at a homeless shelter, we took the time to shower love on those whose spirits needed brightening.

This year, as a new parent, I have been especially thoughtful of holiday traditions and the memories I want to create for my own son. I hope to instill in him the same sense of service and love for others that my parents ingrained in me by their example.

I’d love to hear some of your family traditions as well. Just know that I might just adopt them as my own!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Thanks + Give

It's the Tuesday after Thanksgiving. You've eaten until you were stuffed and then had some more. You've shopped til you dropped. You most likely don't want to see another turkey or the inside of another mall until the new year. Here's where Giving Tuesday comes in, to remind us that this season is really about giving differently.

What if you could give a gift that literally keeps on giving? With a mission to end hunger and poverty while caring for the Earth, Heifer International supports families all over the world (here in the U.S., too) by giving them livestock and training. Then, those families Pass on the Gift by sharing the first female offspring of their livestock with another family and helping to train them. Each time I stand behind a booth sharing with others about Heifer, someone inevitably says, "So it's kind of like the 'teach a man to fish' idea?" It's that and so much more because not only does that man (or woman) learn how to "fish" to sustain his family, he turns around and teaches someone else how to do it as well.

So, check your recycling bin for that Heifer catalog you got in the mail, or check it out online. Get the kids involved in choosing between ducks, rabbits, goats or bees (yes, bees). Give to this worthy organization today and then, get that gift catalog back out because Heifer gifts are great under the tree as well.

And if you're a trail runner, go register for our Hoof it for Heifer 20K happening April 12, 2014 at Petit Jean State Park. It's our third year to put on this trail run in a gorgeous setting and the proceeds benefit Heifer. We have some great volunteers (and staff)! If you are not a runner and already have an organization you are giving to on Giving Tuesday, give us a "like" on the Heifer In Arkansas Facebook page.